The writing in Judge Dredd: Toxic! #3 is many things. Subtle is not one of them. Dredd continues to be a borderline jackbooted fascist who snaps and snarls at everyone around him – including his fellow Judges – and the political commentary is more overt than ever. Not to say that there is no place for political insight in comics, far from it, Dredd has never shied away from addressing all manner of social and political issues (see the storyline of ‘America‘, for instance) but they are usually handled with a defter touch than is on display here.
Issue 3 picks up with a Block War in full swing, the atmosphere both figuratively and literally growing ever more toxic and dangerous as pollution floods up into the city from the Spillover, the Judges fighting desperately to try and keep some semblance of order. Dredd immediately establishes himself as someone uninterested in anything but the capital J – JUSTICE. His comment on the Block War?
“Block wars are temporary events. The pursuit of justice remains central to all Judges’ decisions.”
Seeking out more information on the Blenders and how they came to be in Mega-City One, their meeting with a potential lead is ended by a hail of gunfire, leaving Anderson and Dredd with few answers and time running out before the city becomes too toxic to live in.
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This is not a great depiction of Judge Dredd. Joe Dredd was a man who grew up to enforce the law, yes, but at the same time he showed he had his own set of values, his own principles he would not shift on, even if that occasionally brought him into conflict with the law that he upheld. However, this version of the character is single minded and driven to pursue Capital-J JUSTICE to the exclusion of all else. He is harsh with perps and victims alike, along with being dismissive and borderline insulting to PSI-Judge Anderson who he has worked with so many times by now that he should have learned to respect her intuition and judgement by this point rather than offering backhanded insults. The two have certainly had their rough patches, but there was always a respect between them that is painfully absent in this story so far.
The comparisons between the current US president and the leader of the Anti-Alien League are not even pretending to be subtle in this issue. Starting off with the by-now familiar refrain of “Fake Media”, this caricature of Donald Trump parades around in the signature black suit and red tie with a gun belt strapped around his waist, weaving a shotgun in the air as he raves about illegal aliens and “no free passes”.
So far this storyline has been a far cry from the more nuanced “Under Siege” that preceded it, where ideas about poverty and citizenship were examined without the need to hammer home the point with all the finesse of a Lawgiver wrapped around a large gold brick.